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Fruitful Repentance

Restoration

In repentance, we take the currency of the world and exchange them for the currency of the Kingdom.

According to Psalm 19:7, the word of God is so perfectly set that it has the power to “repent (restore) the soul.” If we understand that God designed each of us according to a master plan in His heart, then we realize that sin has disfigured that original design. We aren’t what we were meant to be. I certainly was not the husband of God’s intent (or my wife’s dreams). I wasn’t even the husband I wanted to be.

It began to dawn on me that some of the “turning around” that was supposed to accompany repentance might not be accomplished only by my struggled effort to reform myself. Perhaps the Lord would accomplish some of it for me. Here at least was the promise that the word of God would be doing some of the work. I could see that the goal of repentance was not just to stop my sinning, but to restore me to my God-intended condition.

The more I meditated on “the kindness of God” that leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4, the more I began to think of repentance in terms of 5th grade math.

My 5th grade teacher had a policy that we could turn in our work before it was actually due, and he would mark the incorrect answers—not where we made a mistake in the working out of the problem, just which ones needed to be re-done.

It began to dawn on me that some of the ‘turning around’ that was supposed to accompany repentance might not be accomplished only by my struggled effort to reform myself.

That is repentance. It can be translated “to reconsider, to come to different conclusions.” Repentance is the opportunity to have my answers checked before they are due. And I get to re-consider how I figured them.

New Wine

Another way to think about repentance is “leaving behind” the ways of the world in order to “turn to” the ways of the Lord. It is putting down the cup of poisoned wine offered to us by the world and taking up, instead, the wine of great abundance and life that the Lord has already poured for us. As I’ve said before, repentance always involves an exchange—one thing for another. It is not merely a a turning from something wrong; it’s a turning to that which is right.

Repentance is never haphazard. Without a deliberate action of turning to that “something right”, we will again find ourselves led to a direct confrontation with that “something wrong.” If all we do is try to turn away from something, we will keep coming back to it; but if we turn to Him and His righteousness, we will find a more sure and lasting escape. God offers us an exchange, a trade-in—not just a turning away.

The goal of repentance was not just to stop my sinning, but to restore me to my God-intended condition.

Thus, a more accurate picture of repentance involves God welcoming us home and offering to exchange our filthy rags for fine, new set of clothes. Repentance is not trudging off to some isolated, distant spot to prepare for a flogging by a stern and angry God. What I had been doing for so many years was not true repentance; it was a religious counterfeit.

True repentance is what the prodigal son stumbled into—not the rehearsed speech on his way home to his father, but the unexpected welcome and celebration he received when he arrived back home.

True repentance is what the prodigal son stumbled into—not the rehearsed speech on his way home to his father, but the unexpected welcome and celebration he received when he arrived back home. He was convicted and came to his senses in the pig sty, but he could not repent there. He had to return home. Only at home could his rags be replaced with rich garments. Only there could his father give him a new ring of authority and family privilege. The repentance was the going home, not the many previous attempts he made to straighten himself out while he was living far away from home.

Most of us try to repent in the pig sty—we keep living there, telling ourselves we really should not be living there. But we can’t truly repent in the pig sty. We must go home to Father God and simply acknowledge we have been living in the wrong place. For most of my Christian life, I had confused reforming with repenting.

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Category: Biblical Studies, Summer 2005

About the Author: Daniel A. Brown, PhD, planted The Coastlands, a church near Santa Cruz, California, serving as Senior Pastor for 22 years. Daniel has authored four books and numerous articles, but he is best-known for the sorts of resources that help local church leaders excel in their spiritual assignment. For more about Daniel Brown, see his ministry resources website: CTW. Facebook. Twitter.

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